Saturday, February 28, 2009
Before Five in a Row
Ever been Rowing? That's a term used by veteran users of Five in A Row, a curriculum developed by homeschooler Jane Claire Lambert. The concept is this: Each week you use a different book, reading it once each day, and your other studies (including social studies, science, art, etc.) are centered around that book for the week. It's essentially a year of week-long literature-based unit studies. And just for the little ones (ages 2-4) they now have Before Five in a Row.
Before Five in a Row is intended to be "a treasury of creative ideas to inspire learning readiness," or a gentle way to guide your little ones to make connections in their world in the areas of language, literature, science, art, music, math, history, and more. It should be noted that this is in no way a rigorous or formal curriculum, more a guide of ideas for activities to help engage young children and keep learning fun. The book is divided into 2 sections: Stories and Activities, and Parent's Treasury of Creative Ideas for Learning Readiness.
The first section, the bulk of the book, presents 24 different picture books, each with a week's worth of activities centered around that book. You'll read Blueberries for Sal and make a plenty of noise counting, adding and subtracting by dropping toys into a tin pail. You'll read Good Night Moon and make cards of animals for a classification game. You'll read The ABC Bunny and talk about awesome weather events like lightning, clouds and hail. Each book is accompanied with a 1/2 dozen to a dozen short, little activities to try out with your child. The great part is that, other than the guide itself and the books, you only need common household items, toys, and sometimes the great outdoors to do the activities.
The second part of the book is filled with physical activities and games you can play with your child to promote developmental skills like reading readiness, coordination, large motor skills, small motor skills and more. Just little extras to do on a rainy (or sub-zero) day, or to help get some of the extra wiggles out.
The whole Five in a Row (FIAR) concept intrigued me when I first heard about it, so I was eager to receive Before FIAR and try it out for myself. I found implementing it to be a little more difficult than I had supposed, though---I couldn't get the books, not without buying them, that is. We own a couple of the books and our local library has couple of the books. Some might be available through inter-library loan and I'm sure that I could buy some used, but by golly we are simply overrun with children's books in this house:-) I do believe, after reading through Before FIAR and trying it out, it would be fairly simple to modify some of the activities given or even come up with your own using the same principles to fit with whatever books you happen to have. In other words, I think this book is a good springboard for creativity in developing your own toddler-friendly mini-units, even if you can't get the specific books used in it.
As for the second section of the book, it's filled with good ideas, but our family didn't get much use out of it simply because these are things we already do. Some examples: mixing and pouring, pounding box, singing, making musical instruments, skipping and galloping, balancing, tumbling...in fact, I find that if I let them be, my kiddos do all these things on their own without my guidance at all. This section reads a little more like a manual for first-time parents, pointing out the value of these activities that our children discover naturally and the learning opportunities that they provide. It can be a valuable and encouraging resource for new parents or for those considering homeschooling when their children are still quite young.
Before Five in a Row (149 pages) is available from www.fiveinarow.com for $24.95. They also have an active community of Five in a Row users eager to share ideas and activities.
To read other reviews of this book and reviews of Five in a Row (ages 4-8) and Beyond Five in a a Row (ages 8-12), click the banner below:
Disclosure: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I received a free copy of this book. The opinions expressed here are my own.